Sony and Panasonic Announce New HD Format

No, its not Blu-Ray. Sony and Panasonic announced today that they have co-developed a new high definition DVD format created specifically for camcorders. The new format, dubbed AVCHD, captures video onto 8cm DVDs using the MPEG4 AVC/H.264 compression system. This system allows video to be recorded at 18 megabits per second. Current HD video formats are 19 megabits (HD-1) and 25 megabits (HD-2). Current non-HD camcorders record at 8.5 megabits per second. Both companies have been working on this together for over a year.

The AVCHD format compresses HD video into smaller data streams so that it can fit onto existing 8cm DVD discs. This new technology will allow users to shoot HD video using the above codec at twice the efficiency of the current MPEG 2 and MPEG4 codecs. AVCHD will be able to shoot 1080i or 720p with 4:2:0 sampling and will work in either 4:3 or 16:9 formats.

Audiophiles need not worry. AVCHD will also be able to use either AC-3 or Linear PCM for high-quality sound. Using the AC-3 codec, users will be able to record 1 to 5.1 audio channels or 1 to 7.1 audio channels using Linear PCM.

The interesting part is that both Sony and Panasonic are backing Blu-Ray. Yet, the AVCHD format does not incorporate Blu-Ray technology. One would think that Sony would use this as an advantage to get its Blu-Ray technology into more consumer homes, much like they are doing with their Playstation 3. However, there is talk of the two formats (Blu-Ray and AVCHD) coexisting together. Sony also stated that since the two technologies use the same compression methods, "you should be able to play back an AVCHD disk on a Blu-Ray disc player."

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